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Lewis Hamilton sets the pace as Formula One returns

updated 7:12 AM EDT, Fri March 14, 2014
British driver Lewis Hamilton won the Formula One drivers' championship in 2008.
British driver Lewis Hamilton won the Formula One drivers' championship in 2008.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lewis Hamilton sets the pace in practice ahead of the Australian Grand Prix
  • The Mercedes driver failed to complete a lap in the morning session
  • Hamilton's teammate Nico Rosberg was second fastest in Melbourne
  • The first race of the 2014 Formula One season takes place at Albert Park on Sunday

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(CNN) -- It took him a while to get going in Australia but once he did, Lewis Hamilton proved just why he's the favorite to win the 2014 Formula One world championship.

The Briton led a one-two for Mercedes on the first day of the new season, underlining the German marque's billing as the team who have adjusted best to the sport's new mechanical regulations.

Hamiltion heads into the year's first race in Melbourne off the back of a productive preseason, but the early signs were less than promising.

The 2008 drivers' champion failed to complete a lap during the first session of practice at Albert Park, but he recovered in the afternoon to lead the timesheets ahead of his teammate Nico Rosberg.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was third fastest.

The 2014 Formula One season begins in Australia on March 16. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has enjoyed a productive preseason, topping the timesheets on the final day of the closing test event in Bahrain. The 2014 Formula One season begins in Australia on March 16. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has enjoyed a productive preseason, topping the timesheets on the final day of the closing test event in Bahrain.
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Read: Formula One's "weird" trip into the unknown

"While it was disappointing to not get any track time this morning, these little hiccups are going to happen with the new cars and we'll have to get used to that," Hamilton, who's car had an oil sensor problem early on Friday, told the sport's official website after a lap of one minute and 29.625 seconds.

"It felt like I was on the back foot from there but then we got up to pace quite quickly in P2 and found the balance relatively fast.

"I feel quite comfortable in the car so overall it's a positive start but we need to look at the data now and understand where we are.

"We got a nice foundation for the weekend in the second session today so hopefully we can build on that in P3 tomorrow afternoon and then see where we are in qualifying."

Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel was beset by problems during testing, with the all-conquering Red Bull team struggling to get the best out of its Renault engine.

But despite many fearing the worst for the four-time title winner, Vettel was fourth fastest -- over half of a second adrift of Hamilton.

"In a way it's a relief today, the fact that we were running, we didn't have any problems, the balance was good and the performance looked alright," said the German.

"In the end Friday times are not worth a lot, but it's better to be close to the top rather than somewhere towards the back, so I'm very happy with that. We will do what we can to prepare for tomorrow and Sunday, but let's see where we are then -- the most important thing is that we finish."

Vettel and co. will be back on the track for qualifying on Saturday, with the first race of the 2014 season taking place on Sunday.

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